Monday, June 29, 2009

create (value) every day

As some of you may have noticed, I did not attend this year's SNAG conference.  But I did have one of my friends pick up some information from the Professional Development Seminar for me.  I was curious to know how the information was similar or different from what I had presented the previous year.

One of the handouts was basically an advertisement for services the speaker's company provided.  One of the those services was a kind of social media set-up - basically the company would build you a Facebook or MySpace page and then spend 2-3 hours teaching you "best practices."  The cost for this service - $750!

My first reaction was, "I've got to get in on that. I could make bank!"  And in fact, I've toyed with the idea of doing web and social media consulting before, particularly after I presented at the PDS in Savannah.  But, at this point in my life, I can't decide if its something that I would want to do.  

You see, I've become increasingly concerned about what I do providing value to the world around me.  Its taken me a while to get there, but I think I've come to appreciate that the things I make and design do add value to people's lives.  (At least I hope they do.)  And I certainly believe that all my bike advocacy and education activities help improve the community around me.  (If I didn't, I wouldn't be doing them.)  But setting up someone's Facebook page?  I just don't see the value in that.  As a friend recently pointed out to me, apparently this makes me "an entrepreneur, but not a capitalist."  

I couldn't agree more that I'm an entrepreneur.  I come up with a new business idea practically every week.  (And I swear I'm going to do a better job of writing them down.)  But most of them have a greater purpose than just to make as much money as humanly possible.  I just don't believe that is the be all, end all in life.

On Thursday, I went to Ignite Baltimore and one of the speakers was Jim Kucher, who heads the Entrepreneurship Program at the University of Baltimore.  Jim spoke about businesses that fall under the rough banner of Social Entrepreneurship.  For-profit companies that are using their profits to generate real change.  These businesses are the future of activism in America.  In fact, Jim went so far as to say that "charity cannot fund systemic change".  I was truly inspired by his talk.

So, where am I going with all of this?  Well, while riding my bike today, I was thinking about the best ways to help encourage more people to bike.  In the past, I've always thought about starting a non-profit of my own.  But today I wondered, why does it have to be a non-profit?  Why can't I create programs or services that help fund other programs and services?  What if I became a bicycle consultant?  (For lack of a better term - and I seriously need to come up with a better term.)  Perhaps I couldn't charge $750.  But for certain things (say, services to other businesses) maybe I could.  The point is that I'd be doing something I believe in.  I'm not quite sure what any of this would look like yet, but I think its an idea worth pursuing further.  Any suggestions?

Oh, and if you're still reading at this point in the post, the little journal (which I'm planning on using to write down more of my business ideas) is from Compendium Incorporated.  They were giving them away at the National Stationary Show.  Which, in my mind, is a pretty good way to create a fan for life.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

5 bowls

My summer class is over - but I think I managed to make some good progress.  Here are the 5 bowls I completed.  

But I'm still not done with my raising exploration - I'm planning on spending some more time in the studio at school this summer.  After we get back from the beach, that is!

Sunday afternoon eye candy, courtesy of my students

For my summer session class, I assigned my students a paper (its actually a University mandate for 100-level art electives).  I decided to have my students choose one artist from Klimt02 and discuss their work.  I had a lot of fun reading their papers and gaining insight into some jewelers I don't usually look at.  Here are some of their finds:

tri, tri again

This morning I did my second triathlon of 2009.  This one certainly had some advantages over the last one - it was women only (which is just cool), the field was much smaller (200 vs 750), and it was a pool swim (no freezing cold lake).  I'm not totally happy with my time - I had a really rough run.  I developed a horrible side stitch just past mile 1, and it took me a mile to work it out.  

But I'm trying to focus on the positives.  Even though my bike time was a little slower than I would have liked, I was pleased with how the bike went.  I didn't get passed by a single rider, and spent the bike just focusing on the next person in front of me, picking people off one by one.  Then, part way through the ride, two guys out for their Sunday ride turned onto a road just as I was turning.  One of the guys told me I had a really, really cool bike and wished me luck in the race.  The two guys got a little ahead of me on the downhill, but I managed to hang with them on the next uphill and pass them on the uphill after that.  How's that for a confidence boost?

Now I've got to find a fall tri to do!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

ornament prototypes

After getting everyone's feedback on the ornament (both here and on Twitter), I was able to step back and really think about my collection and what I wanted to do.  I also thought about some of my goals when designing the new collection, including the major goal of developing things I didn't have to make.  And yet as much as I love the new collection, I realize that the price point is a little high for many people, especially right now.

So it seems only fitting to develop a line of laser cut ornaments using the patterns in my new collection.  They could function as a much more affordable version of my line.  (Hopefully - I have sent the designs to my laser cutter for a quote yet.)  

These are just the prototypes that I hand pierced to get a feel for the designs.  What do you think?  I still haven't settled on how to hang them yet.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

marking time

Part way through bowl #4, I started tracing the rim of the bowl to see the progression of the diameter.  I like that it makes this reverse tree ring sort of effect - marking the history of my bowl.

It also reminds me of a chapter in Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac, where he traces the history of the county by the rings in the tree they are cutting into for firewood.

4 and 5

I meant to post this on Thursday, but the day got away from me...

Bowl #4 is progressing rather slowly, because I'm trying to bring the sides up to vertical, so I went ahead and started #5.  I'm experimenting with different forms to try to see what works for me.  I keep asking myself, "what does a megan bowl look like?"

Sunday, June 21, 2009

black, white, and grey

Even my workspace is monochromatic. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


When I left the studio on Thursday night, I was really disappointed that I wouldn't be able to do any raising again until Tuesday.  And by yesterday afternoon, I was jonesing to get started on bowl #4.

I'm not sure why I've been so compelled to do suddenly do all this raising.  It started as a desire to remind myself that I knew how to do it.  Its been almost three years since I taught the raising class, and I just wanted to check in with my muscle memory.

But raising one bowl probably should have fulfilled that.  Instead, I moved right on to the next one.  Perhaps its because the process is so gratifying - to go from a flat sheet of metal to something that can hold water.  Or perhaps because the process is so physical compared to most of the work I've been doing lately.  Its really gratifying to know that I've wrestled that flat sheet into exactly the form that I wanted.  (Or sometimes not quite the form I'm after.)

And there's a small part of me that is thinking if I continue out this exploration, perhaps I'll get to a place where this works its way into my collection.  I love the new items I've been designing, but I feel like so many people laser cut.  I want to see if I can bring back a level of skill to my work that is indicative of seven years of higher education in metalsmithing.  I want to distinguish myself from the pack.

I don't really have all the answers, but I plan on continuing this exploration - making and thinking as I go.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

the cutest dead animals

Thanks for all your feedback on my last post!  Certainly lots of things to think about.

I wanted to share a few of the concept images that my brother made for an animation he is working on.  You can read more about it on his blog.  I just love the color palette and the simple, graphic quality of the animals.  I think he should sell some of the concept art as prints in his Etsy shop.  Don't you?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

the return of ornaments?

With only about 2 months to go until New York Gift, I'm really thinking hard about what products I'm going to have in my booth.  I would really like to bring the ornaments into my wholesale line, but I've got a few decisions to make.  I think the ornaments will be a good addition because they sell at a lower price point, and since this is an August show, buyers will be looking for holiday items.

However, I'm concerned that in their current incarnation, they won't fit into the modern, graphic aesthetic I'm trying to convey in my booth and with my brand.  So here are my questions:
Do I just focus on imagery using my loop leaf shape so that it relates to my other work, and forgo the more obvious holiday imagery?
Do I limit the metals - just steel instead of copper?  And if I'm using steel, do I powder coat, paint, or leave them bare?
Should I use a different hanging method?  Something simpler and cleaner than the ribbon?  Or do they need a hanging method at all?  Is a hole enough, and then people can supply their own hook?

These are changes that I'm considering for a wholesale line of the ornaments - the original version could still be available in my Etsy shop.

So, what should I do?  Your thoughts?

Thanks in advance for your help!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

the jig is up

When I was in grad school, I used to marvel at how quickly my friend Corey could raise a bowl.  Turns out that with a little practice and some 22 gauge copper, I too can raise a bowl in an afternoon.  Corey, I'm on to you!

(Actually, I could never hold a candle to Corey's metalsmithing skills.  I own two of her bowls, and my bowls could never be in the same room as hers.  They would just be embarrassed.)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

following along

Wow, it does seem like its been difficult to find time to blog these last couple of weeks.  My weekends have been filled with lots of bike rides and spending time outdoors.  And during the week, I've been wrapped up in teaching my class and playing in the studio.

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been working on the projects along with my class.  So I thought I'd share a process shot from the Pop-up Lighting Project.  The idea behind this project is to create a piece of lighting by piercing a sheet of metal and then make it three-dimensional by some combination of bending and forming, slots and tabs, or cold connections.  I'm making a pair of candlestick holders.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

summer school

As I mentioned before, I'm teaching a summer session class - Jewelry for Non-Art Majors.  I've never taught a summer class or a non-majors class before, so I really had no idea what to expect.

Well, I'm happy to say I'm loving it.  I'm the only faculty member teaching in our studio, so I have the place to myself.  My students are fantastic - fun and curious and so excited about everything they're learning.  Their first project was a cuff bracelet, and I'm very happy with the results.  (And I love this picture, its like I've got a whole class of Wonder Woman or She-Ra Princess of Power.)

In fact, I actually have time to make the projects along with them!  Its great because I get to work on something for fun, and its really helping me evaluate what does and doesn't work in each project.

Plus, I've been treating the days I teach as my own mini summer art camp.  Most afternoons after my students leave, I've been staying to work in the studio (which I have all to myself).  Its so fun to work on things I can't do in my own studio because I don't have those tools - I've even been doing some raising!  (If you went to school with me at all, you'll understand how crazy that last statement is.)  And I'm letting myself work with no finished product or goal in mind - just experimentation and some good old fashioned metalsmithing.

I promise to share pics of what I'm working on soon.  I'm so excited to see where all this creative freedom is going to take me!